Best bud­get smart­phones 2018

CHRIS MARTIN rounds up our favourite hand­sets

Android Advisor - - Buying guide -

Cost­ing over £1,000, flag­ship phones are more ex­pen­sive than ever, but as th­ese get bet­ter so too do more af­ford­able mod­els. In­deed, it’s now pos­si­ble to buy a hand­set for un­der £200, and still get a de­vice ca­pa­ble of ev­ery­thing you throw at it.

Should you buy a locked phone?

You’ll quickly find that some of the best deals on cheap phones are sold via mo­bile op­er­a­tors. What you

need to look out for is whether th­ese phones are sold locked to that op­er­a­tor’s net­work.

This is the case with the EE Hawk ( page 96), but if you don’t want to be­come a EE cus­tomer you should look else­where on the list for a non-net­work-branded hand­set, such as the Moto G5.

What about a Chi­nese phone?

An al­ter­na­tive is to buy a Chi­nese phone. You might not have heard of the brands, and they won’t be avail­able on the UK High Street (save for the likes of Huawei and ZTE), but they are well-known for of­fer­ing amaz­ing spec­i­fi­ca­tions for the money and un­der­cut­ting their Euro­pean ri­vals. In most cases you’ll get a phone with a mid-range spec­i­fi­ca­tion at a bud­get price.

What will you get for your money?

If you’re look­ing for an af­ford­able phone, you have to ac­cept the fact that the man­u­fac­turer is go­ing to cut some cor­ners to achieve that low price and you aren’t go­ing to get the same speed, fea­tures, and dis­play qual­ity as you might with a phone cost­ing two, three, or even four times the price.

It used to be the case that bud­get phones were in­stantly rec­og­niz­able by their low-res­o­lu­tion dis­plays, mea­gre stor­age, and chunky, plas­tic bod­ies, but things are im­prov­ing in this area all the time. Th­ese days, for £200 or less it’s pos­si­ble to buy a phone with a Full HD dis­play and a sub 8mm-thick metal body.

Most will sup­port 4G con­nec­tiv­ity, but not all will sup­port NFC (Chi­nese phones will of­ten fea­ture

HotKnot which is a sim­i­lar tech­nol­ogy, but not the same as NFC.)

1. Honor 9 Lite £199 from fave.co/2t0pN2H

There‘s no let up in the smart­phone mar­ket and Honor has yet an­other new hand­set to tempt those look­ing for a stylish phone at an af­ford­able price. Over the fol­low­ing pages we take a close look at the 9 Lite.

Honor’s range can get a lit­tle con­fus­ing, es­pe­cially when you in­clude Huawei, the firm’s par­ent com­pany, de­vices into the mix.

So the Honor 9 Lite sounds like a cut-down ver­sion of the ex­cel­lent Honor 9, and while it is to some ex­tent, it’s also a sort of mini or light edi­tion of the Honor View 10 be­cause of its 18:9 screen.

How­ever, the de­vice is clos­est – al­most iden­ti­cal in fact – to the Huawei P Smart, which has just launched on Voda­fone. Honor’s ver­sion, though, will be a great way of pick­ing up the same phone on a con­tract-free ba­sis.

De­sign

There’s no de­sign over­haul when it comes to the Honor 9 Lite. It looks like the Honor 9, one of our favourite mid-range phones ever, so has the now fa­mil­iar com­bi­na­tion of glass and alu­minium.

The firm’s cur­rent range of phones are very glossy and eye-catch­ing thanks to the glass front and rear cov­ers and the sig­na­ture blue colour. The ‘mir­ror­like’ fin­ish – on the blue and grey mod­els – might

be at­trac­tive in pho­tos, but quickly gets grubby with fin­ger­prints and the like.

In de­sign, it ac­tu­ally looks like a suc­ces­sor to the Honor 9 due to a move to an 18:9 screen, which is all the rage th­ese days. That’s why it also looks sim­i­lar to the firm’s View 10, which is big­ger. That said, Honor has moved the fin­ger­print scan­ner to the back in­stead of squeez­ing it in be­low the dis­play. This is pretty usual for an 18:9 smart­phone and the sen­sor is neatly placed in the mid­dle and away from the cam­eras. There is a cam­era bump, but it’s very small and doesn’t cause the phone to rock when placed on a flat sur­face.

The new screen means the Honor 9 Lite is a lit­tle taller than the reg­u­lar model. It’s marginally thicker at 7.6mm, but it’s ac­tu­ally lighter by 6g at 149g. In the UK, the Honor 9 Lite is avail­able in Sap­phire Blue, Mid­night Black and Glacier Grey.

Over­all, the Honor 9 Lite is eas­ily one of the nicest phones around in terms of de­sign and build at un­der £200. It cer­tainly doesn’t feel like a bud­get de­vice, but can it of­fer enough when it comes to specs and per­for­mance?

Dis­play

Much is sim­i­lar to the reg­u­lar Honor 9, but the even cheaper new­bie has the same 18:9 style screen avail­able on the View 10.

That 5.6in screen sits be­tween the 9 and View 10 in terms of size. The res­o­lu­tion is slightly higher than the 9 at Full HD+ 2,160x1,080 to ac­com­mo­date the 18:9 as­pect ra­tio and re­tain the 428ppi pixel den­sity. Over­all, the IPS screen is very nice of­fer­ing de­cent bright­ness, an ‘eye com­fort’ mode and the softer

colours of an LCD panel. We’re very im­pressed for a phone at un­der £200.

Pro­ces­sor, mem­ory and stor­age

It’s no sur­prise that the Honor 9 Lite has a lower grade pro­ces­sor than its com­rades, with a Kirin 659 – as used in the Honor 7X – in­stead of the flag­ship level 960 or 970. It’s still an octa-core chip with de­cent speeds. Other spec­i­fi­ca­tion cuts are ex­pected, but get­ting 3GB of RAM and 32GB of stor­age is per­fectly ac­cept­able and enough for most peo­ple buy­ing a phone in this range. And there’s al­ways the mi­croSD card slot if you need to add more stor­age – up to 256GB more. As you can see in our bench­mark re­sults, it out­paces key ri­vals such as the Moto G5 in Geekbench, though the Nokia 5 of­fers bet­ter graph­ics

per­for­mance thanks to its lower res­o­lu­tion screen. Over­all, we’ve found the per­for­mance to be smooth in gen­eral us­age, but it’s not flaw­less. The main is­sue is that the cam­era can take a while to load, and we’ve even found the app menu to lag some­times.

Con­nec­tiv­ity

Us­ing a mem­ory card will take up the sec­ond SIM slot, though this won’t bother most users. The Honor 9 Lite fea­tures LTE con­nec­tiv­ity, NFC, 11b/g/n Wi-Fi and GPS. It doesn’t have the more mod­ern re­versible USB-C port but does have the more and more elu­sive head­phone jack.

The fin­ger­print scan­ner on the back works well and can be used for var­i­ous things other than un­lock­ing

the phone. Th­ese in­clude tak­ing pho­tos, an­swer­ing calls, stop­ping alarms, brows­ing pho­tos and pulling the no­ti­fi­ca­tion panel down – you just need to switch them on in the set­tings.

Cam­eras

Apart from hav­ing a ‘Ful­lView’ dis­play, Honor is re­ally sell­ing the 9 Lite on the ba­sis that it has no less than four cam­eras. You’ll find a com­bi­na­tion of 13- and 2Mp cam­era on the front and back. Each pair works to­gether to pro­vide what’s com­monly known as a por­trait mode, where the 13Mp sen­sor cap­tures the de­tail, while the low res­o­lu­tion sen­sor is there for

depth ef­fect. Although the rear cam­eras are the same, they fea­ture HDR and phase de­tec­tion auto fo­cus.

Once again, the Honor 9 Lite is im­pres­sive here if not per­fect. Aside from the cam­era tak­ing a while to load and the aut­o­fo­cus tak­ing a while to lock on, the re­sults are gen­er­ally good from both rear and front. As you might ex­pect from a bud­get phone, low light per­for­mance isn’t any­thing spe­cial but as you can see op­po­site the HDR mode works well for land­scape and the por­trait mode does a de­cent job – just re­mem­ber to turn on the bokeh ef­fect to blur the back­ground.

Bat­tery life

It’s un­der­stand­able there’s noth­ing like wire­less charg­ing here and even no USB-C. There’s a 3,000mAh bat­tery, which is about av­er­age for a midrange phone, but more than usual for the bud­get cat­e­gory. Some fast charg­ing would be nice, but per­haps that’s too much to ask at this price.

Honor prom­ises a whole day’s use and that’s what we’ve found dur­ing our test­ing. Even be­ing out and about re­ly­ing on the 9 Lite for Google Maps and more wasn’t enough for it to conk out be­fore bed­time.

Soft­ware

It’s great to see that the Honor 9 Lite comes with An­droid 8.0 Oreo out of the box. That’s the lat­est ver­sion, which many of last year’s phones, even the Gal­axy S8, haven’t been up­dated to yet.

Honor adds Huawei’s EMUI 8.0 on-top which used to be a big is­sue but the over­lay has been im­proved over time. Th­ese days it’s closer to stock, sim­pler and

eas­ier to use. You get the Google Now panel a swipe away from the home screen, gor­geous lock screen im­ages that change ev­ery time you un­lock and the op­tion to cus­tom­ize the phone with Themes.

There are still is­sues though, and on the down­side there are a few too many pre-in­stalled apps, in­clud­ing no less than six games and by de­fault there’s no app draw. Luck­ily, you can eas­ily switch it on in the set­tings. You can do things like dou­ble-tap to wake the screen but they’re switched off by de­fault. As is the app draw/menu, so you’ll be pre­sented with an iOS-style lay­out at first. Not ev­ery­one will like SwiftKey ei­ther, but you can eas­ily in­stall a dif­fer­ent key­board if you like.

Over­all, then, it’s not a per­fect soft­ware ex­pe­ri­ence, but it’s much bet­ter than pre­vi­ously and most is­sues can be rec­ti­fied with some cus­tomiza­tion.

Ver­dict

The Honor 9 Lite might not have all the mod cons, but it’s one of the cheap­est phones around to of­fer an 18:9 screen with a bezel-free de­sign. It’s an at­trac­tive de­vice and gen­eral spec­i­fi­ca­tions are good, in­clud­ing no less than four cam­eras. It doesn’t have flaw­less per­for­mance but there’s lit­tle to com­plain about at un­der £200 mak­ing it the best bud­get smart­phone around. Chris Martin

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

• 5.69in (2160x1080, 428ppi) IPS LCD ca­pac­i­tive dis­play • An­droid 8.0 Oreo

• HiSil­i­con Kirin 659 pro­ces­sor • Octa-core 4x 2.36GHz Cor­tex-A53 and 4x 1.7GHz

Cor­tex-A53 CPU • Mali-T830 MP2 GPU • 3/4GB RAM • 32/64GB stor­age, mi­croSD up to 256GB • Fin­ger­print scan­ner • Dual rear-fac­ing cam­eras: 13- and 2Mp, phase

de­tec­tion aut­o­fo­cus, LED flash • Dual front-fac­ing cam­eras: 13- and 2Mp, 1080p • 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi • Blue­tooth 4.2 • A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS • Mi­cro-USB 2.0 • Non-re­mov­able lithium-poly­mer 3,000mAh bat­tery • 151x71.9x7.6mm • 149g

2. Moto G6 Play £169 from fave.co/2IbusST

The Moto G6 Play is a sleek bud­get phone that costs just £169. It is an out­stand­ing af­ford­able phone in 2018

that in no way feels like one de­spite cost­ing less than the Moto G6 and G6 Plus.

While those two hand­sets have bet­ter spec­i­fi­ca­tions, the G6 Play has charmed us right out the box. It is well de­signed, sleek yet sturdy and a de­cent per­former con­sid­er­ing the low-end spec sheet. Here’s our re­view ex­plain­ing why the Moto G6 Play is such a good deal.

De­sign

While the G6 and G6 Plus look pretty much iden­ti­cal, the Moto G6 Play has a slightly dif­fer­ent de­sign. You can tell it’s part of the same range of phones, but the Play has a few quirks that make it stand out.

For starters, the fin­ger­print scan­ner is on the back and has the Mo­torola logo on it. You might pre­fer the place­ment com­pared to the front­mounted G6 and G6 Plus, but that’s en­tirely down to per­sonal pref­er­ence.

At first glance you’d think Mo­torola had re­moved its head­phone jack, but ac­tu­ally it’s moved it from its po­si­tion next to the USB port on the G6 and G6 Play to the top of the de­vice. An­other change here is that this port is Mi­cro-USB rather than USB-C, which is a shame con­sid­er­ing its an older stan­dard, but un­der­stand­able con­sid­er­ing the price.

While the more ex­pen­sive G6 mod­els have a sleek 3D glass rear cover, the G6 Play is plas­tic. It still looks and feels good though, and ac­tu­ally the plas­tic cover helps in terms of grip. The other thing miss­ing here is a p2i wa­ter-re­pel­lent coat­ing (in the UK at least), so you’ll have to be a lit­tle more care­ful

with it around wa­ter, but we used it in the rain and it came out un­scathed.

The G6 Play is a bit chunkier than most phones at 9mm and weighs a rea­son­able 175g. Th­ese aren’t huge dif­fer­ences to the other G6 phones, though and the bulk and weight ac­tu­ally help to make it feel more pre­mium – but if you want a slim, sleek phone this is not it. Our re­view unit is an at­trac­tive hue though some­what a fin­ger­print mag­net. But the way it re­flects light is very cool for a bud­get phone and helps it to stand out, along with its cir­cu­lar cam­era mod­ule.

Dis­play

The G6 Play’s screen is a 5.7in 18:9 LCD, but not a Full HD res­o­lu­tion at 1440x720p. We still re­ally liked us­ing the phone, and the lower res­o­lu­tion of the dis­play in com­par­i­son to the G6 and G6 Plus isn’t an is­sue in our eyes. It can deal with colour re­pro­duc­tion well

in stan­dard mode, but has the op­tion to change to vi­brant to boost the saturation. The dis­play is more than suf­fi­cient at this price, and this is one of the cheap­est 18:9 phones we’ve seen, and Net­flix on the bus was no trou­ble at all.

Pro­ces­sor, mem­ory and stor­age

It’s im­pres­sive to see the G6 Play has 3GB of RAM and 32GB of stor­age, which matches the en­try con­fig­u­ra­tion of the reg­u­lar G6. How­ever, the pro­ces­sor drops from a Qual­comm Snap­dragon 450 to a 430. The lower-grade chip means per­for­mance isn’t as good, and in a tan­gi­ble way, though we found the phone per­fectly ser­vice­able as our main phone for sev­eral days. Multi-task­ing is a tad slow at times and the cam­era app lags, but for calls, texts, so­cial me­dia,

email and even Spo­tify to Blue­tooth head­phones, the G6 Play is sur­pris­ingly ex­cel­lent.

As our bench­marks shows, the G6 Play holds its own against phones of the same price and spec­i­fi­ca­tions. It per­forms faster in frames per sec­ond tests than the G6 due to its lower res­o­lu­tion screen – but in fact, you won’t no­tice any dif­fer­ence in use be­tween any of th­ese four phones.

Con­nec­tiv­ity and au­dio

As is stan­dard on lower-end phones, there is Blue­tooth 4.2 for con­nect­ing to ac­ces­sories such as speak­ers, but with the ab­sence of the aptX stan­dard, au­dio qual­ity to wire­less head­phones is no­tice­ably patchy. If you want to use the speaker, it’s a front port deal and gets quite loud, but is only suited to talk ra­dio or pod­cast play­back – and a quiet solo Net­flix ses­sion at a push.

Cam­eras

Mo­torola has given the G6 Play a 13Mp cam­era, but there’s no se­condary lens. There’s phase de­tec­tion aut­o­fo­cus and an f/2.0 aper­ture, and the re­sults are just about so­cial me­dia-ac­cept­able, but it is ob­vi­ously not a stand­out shooter.

Note how it can cap­ture the sky well in some shots, but it be­comes blown out in oth­ers. The level of de­tail cap­tured for a bud­get phone is pretty de­cent, though.

Video is limited to 1080p at 30fps, though the phone can still record slow mo­tion. The front cam­era is 8Mp like the other G6 mod­els but, again, has fewer fea­tures here and is pass­able at best.

Bat­tery life

Although most ar­eas are down­grades, the Play of­fers a much higher-ca­pac­ity bat­tery than both the other G6 phones. It’s a whop­ping 4,000mAh, com­pared to the 3,000- and 3,200mAh G6 and G6 Plus.

Mo­torola says this means you can get 32 hours us­age from the de­vice, which sounds amaz­ing – and more im­por­tantly we found to be true in real world use. The G6 Play lasted for over two days of use be­fore hit­ting any­where near 10 per­cent bat­tery, which is im­pres­sive on a mod­ern (if low-end) smart­phone.

It also ben­e­fits from Turbo Charg­ing: you can get six hours of life from a 15-minute charge and in our tests, it charged from 0- to 33 per­cent in half an hour.

Soft­ware

Over­all, the ex­pe­ri­ence on the G6 Play is solid thanks to Moti’s un­clut­tered An­droid skin that barely changes any­thing from stock. Notably, there are fewer cam­era fea­tures on the phone com­pared to the G6 and G6 Plus thanks to the lack of dual rear cam­eras.

You still get An­droid 8.0 Oreo with a stock in­ter­face – it’s very much the ex­pe­ri­ence you get on Google’s own Pixel de­vices bar a few aes­thetic changes. That means An­droid as it’s in­tended, with no bloat­ware to take up valu­able stor­age, im­por­tant when you only have 32GB (although it is ex­pand­able).

Mo­torola does add its own Moto app, which con­tains help­ful things such as ac­tions and things you can do with the dis­play. The G6 Play doesn’t have Moto Voice, though.

Ver­dict

The Moto G6 Play is a great lit­tle sur­prise of a phone. It holds its own next to the other two G6 phones and has bet­ter bat­tery life (and a cooler fin­ger­print sen­sor). The 18:9 dis­play and pre­mium (but plas­tic) de­sign means it feels just as well-made as phones dou­ble the price but doesn’t com­pro­mise on per­for­mance to do so. With a head­phone jack as a plus, a mi­nus is Mi­cro-USB but we’ll for­give that on its strengths and can rec­om­mend the G6 Play as one of the best bud­get phones of 2018. Chris Martin and Henry Burrell

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

• 5.7in (1440x720, 282ppi) IPS LCD ca­pac­i­tive dis­play • An­droid 8.0 Oreo • Qual­comm MSM8937 Snap­dragon 430 pro­ces­sor • Octa-core 1.4GHz Cor­tex-A53 CPU • Adreno 505 GPU • 2/3GB RAM • 16/32GB stor­age, mi­croSD up to 256GB • Iris/fin­ger­print scan­ner • 13Mp rear-fac­ing cam­era: f/2.0, 1.12μm, phase

de­tec­tion aut­o­fo­cus, LED flash • 8Mp front-fac­ing cam­era: LED flash, 1080p • 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi • Blue­tooth 54.2 • A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS • Mi­cro-USB 2.0 • Non-re­mov­able lithium-ion 4,000mAh bat­tery

• 154.4x72.2x9mm • 175g

3. Moto G5 £119 from fave.co/2JhUdS4

Pre­mium for All’ is Len­ovo’s new motto for its G5 phones, the Moto G5 and G5 Plus, which aim to of­fer the build qual­ity and feel of a flag­ship de­vice at de­cid­edly non-flag­ship prices. That’s es­pe­cially true of the G5, which of­fers a metal body, rapid charg­ing, and fin­ger­print sen­sor con­trols – all at a sub-£200 price.

De­sign

De­sign is where the G5 has seen the big­gest over­haul from its pre­de­ces­sor. The phone fea­tures an alu­minium body – in­stead of the G4’s plas­tic – which

means it im­me­di­ately feels like a more ex­pen­sive phone than it is. The 5in dis­play stretches most of the way to the sides of the body, though there’s still plenty of bezel at the top and bot­tom.

The rear of the phone is dom­i­nated by the large cam­era aper­ture that sits above a brushed metal Mo­torola ‘M’. At 144.5g, it’s a com­fort­able weight and has that re­as­sur­ing heft of any metal-bod­ied de­vice, while it mea­sures 144.3x73x9.5mm, which is small enough to use in one hand. It’s avail­able in Lu­nar Grey, Sap­phire Blue or Fine Gold – our re­view unit was the grey model, which is at­trac­tively un­der­stated.

The G5 doesn’t of­fer the sort of strik­ing de­sign that’s likely to turn heads – at least not un­til you tell some­one how lit­tle you paid for it. It’s mostly straight­for­ward, unas­sum­ing stuff, but it’s the feel of the phone and its build qual­ity, that re­ally sells it. This is a hand­set that feels and looks well-made – ‘cheap’ never once sprang to mind. It’s sim­ple, it’s el­e­gant and there aren’t many bet­ter-look­ing phones that will cost you this lit­tle.

Fea­tures

Of­fer­ing that sort of de­sign and build qual­ity at less than £200 comes at a price, of course, and the Moto G5’s in­ter­nal spec­i­fi­ca­tions are where it lives down to its price.

It’s pow­ered by a Snap­dragon 430 with a 1.4GHz eight-core CPU and 450MHz Adreno 505 GPU. Our re­view unit came with 3GB RAM, though you can also get it with 2GB. With only a £10 price dif­fer­ence, we’d find it hard not to rec­om­mend opt­ing for the

higher-spec model. To be blunt, the bench­mark re­sults aren’t great (see over­leaf). We were sur­prised to see slightly worse scores than from 2016’s G4, likely be­cause it runs the more re­cent – but less pow­er­ful – Snap­dragon 430, com­pared to the G4’s Snap­dragon 617. Even a bet­ter GPU and more RAM weren’t enough to make up for the CPU gap.

Even so, in day-to-day use the G5 doesn’t feel slow, and it should be more than enough for av­er­age us­age, in­clud­ing stream­ing video and light gam­ing. The G5 never feels like it’s un­der­per­form­ing.

The 5in dis­play is full 1080p and 441ppi, with crisp, bright colours, though it has no Go­rilla Glass pro­tec­tion. Be­low that you’ll find the fin­ger­print sen­sor, which dou­bles up as a re­place­ment for An­droid’s on-screen but­tons, through some nifty

swipe con­trols. The Moto G5 comes with a small 16GB of on-board stor­age, but there’s sup­port for mi­croSD cards up to 128GB. The rear cam­era is 13Mp with LED flash and phase de­tec­tion aut­o­fo­cus, while the front cam­era is 5Mp. Tak­ing pho­tos with the aut­o­fo­cus was al­most in­stan­ta­neous, and for the most part we were able to cap­ture crisp, clear pho­tos even in chal­leng­ing light­ing.

There’s a 2,800mAh bat­tery, which should pro­vide a full day’s use pretty com­fort­ably. The most we man­aged to wear it down to was 20 per­cent af­ter 16 hours of us­age, in­clud­ing some heavy cam­era and in­ter­net use – you can trust the G5 to last the day, but you will want to charge it each night.

It comes pack­aged with a 10W Mi­cro-USB rapid charger, which is able to pro­vide a few hours of bat­tery life af­ter just 15 min­utes or so of charg­ing – as

long as the bat­tery is low to start with. It also sup­ports Tur­boPower charg­ing, which can of­fer six hours of bat­tery in the same time, though you’ll have to buy the charger sep­a­rately. There’s also 2.4- and 5GHz WiFi, GPS, Blue­tooth 4.2 and a wa­ter-re­pel­lent coat­ing. One big omis­sion is NFC, so you won’t be able to use An­droid Pay or its equiv­a­lents. You do get a 3.5mm head­phone jack, though.

Soft­ware

The G5 comes loaded with An­droid 7.0 Nougat, and runs a ver­sion that’s close to stock, with a few ‘Moto ex­pe­ri­ences’ added on (more on those in a mo­ment). What this means is that if you’re look­ing for some­thing not far from the pure An­droid ex­pe­ri­ence, but don’t want to splash out on the Google Pixel, the Moto G5 could be a good op­tion.

It’s also one of the first phones in­cluded in the search gi­ant’s new ex­pan­sion of its Google As­sis­tant ser­vices, pre­vi­ously limited to only a hand­ful of hand­sets, though it wasn’t on the G5 at launch. Even­tu­ally, you can prob­a­bly ex­pect the new AI as­sis­tant to be ubiq­ui­tous across An­droid, but for now this will be one of the cheap­est ways to get your hands on it.

The big dif­fer­ence from stock An­droid is the in­clu­sion of the ges­ture-based ‘Moto Ac­tions’, some of which may be fa­mil­iar from other Mo­torola phones, while oth­ers are en­tirely new. They’re all op­tional, and are ac­ti­vated or de­ac­ti­vated from the in­cluded Moto app. You can do a dou­ble ‘karate chop’ mo­tion to turn on the torch, and quickly twist

the phone back­wards and for­wards twice to ac­ti­vate the cam­era. Plac­ing the phone face down on a ta­ble sets it do ‘Do Not Dis­turb’, while pick­ing it up when it’s ring­ing will si­lence the ring­tone.

You can also swipe up from the bot­tom of the screen to shrink the dis­play for easy one-handed use. The most wel­come ad­di­tion is the use of the fin­ger­print sen­sor as a one-but­ton re­place­ment for An­droid’s nor­mal on-screen con­trols. You can now swipe left across the sen­sor to go back, tap it for home, and swipe right to open the list of re­cent apps.

It’s an in­tu­itive sys­tem and within sec­onds we were com­fort­ably swip­ing away – it re­ally speeds up loads of ba­sic tasks, and is a fea­ture not many other An­droid phones have yet. Oc­ca­sion­ally, it can be a bit fid­dly – reg­is­ter­ing your swipe as a press, or vice versa – but for the most part it works well, and it feels slug­gish switch­ing back to on-screen but­tons. It’s es­pe­cially help­ful here given the G5’s rel­a­tively pe­tite 5in screen – the ex­tra screen real es­tate gained by re­mov­ing the on-screen but­tons makes the dis­play feel more ex­pan­sive than it re­ally is.

Ver­dict

There’s fierce com­pe­ti­tion in An­droid’s bud­get mar­ket, but the Moto G5 is a strong con­tender. The build qual­ity alone feels like it be­longs on a much more ex­pen­sive phone, while the fin­ger­print ges­ture con­trols gen­uinely im­prove the An­droid ex­pe­ri­ence. The bench­marks and bat­tery hold it back, but they’re not un­rea­son­able given the price – and you won’t find a much bet­ter-look­ing phone at £169. You might want

to spend the ex­tra to get the Moto G5 Plus with more stor­age, a bet­ter cam­era and more. Do­minic Pre­ston

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

• 5.85in (1,080x920, 441ppi) touch­screen • An­droid 7.0 Nougat • 1.4GHz Qual­comm Snap­dragon 430 octa-core chip • Adreno 505 graph­ics • 2- or 3GB RAM • 16GB stor­age • 13Mp main cam­era, LED flash, sup­port for 1080p

video at 30fps • 5Mp front cam­era • 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi (2.4- and 5GHz) • Blue­tooth 4.2 • 4G LTE

• Nano-SIM • 2,800mAh re­mov­able bat­tery • Mi­cro-USB rapid charg­ing • Mi­croSD sup­port up to 128GB • Wa­ter-re­pel­lent nano-coat­ing • 144.3x73x9.5mm • 144.5g

4. Nokia 5 £179 from fave.co/2gebE9w

Although the Nokia 5 was launched by HMD Global at MWC 2017 back in Fe­bru­ary, it’s still one of the best bud­get hand­sets you can get.

De­sign

We love the de­sign of the Nokia 5. We were so pleas­antly sur­prised when we first picked it up,

al­ready know­ing how low the price tag is. It has a 5.2in dis­play within a neat, com­pact body. It feels in­cred­i­bly pre­mium, with smooth, rounded edges that make it sleek and com­fort­able to hold.

It’s made from a sin­gle block of 6000 se­ries alu­minium, and uses Go­rilla Glass to add dura­bil­ity to the dis­play. It weighs 160g and mea­sures just 8mm in thick­ness. The bezels on ei­ther side of the screen are tiny, and seem to blend right into the chas­sis. The 5.2in dis­play means the over­all size of the phone is good for one-handed use and porta­bil­ity while still of­fer­ing enough room for a good ex­pe­ri­ence when watch­ing videos or play­ing games.

The Nokia 5 is avail­able in Matte Black, Sil­ver, Tem­pered Blue or Cop­per. We par­tic­u­larly like the blue op­tion, but all four colours look gor­geous. Show this phone to a friend and they’ll never guess the price tag. Con­sider us im­pressed.

Hard­ware

While we love the size of the screen, a down­fall is that its dis­play res­o­lu­tion isn’t as high as we’d have liked.

It’s 1,280x720 HD at 282ppi, which still man­ages to be vivid and bright, but when com­pared with the likes of the Moto G5’s Full HD of­fer­ing on a phone with the slightly lower price tag it’s a bit of a shame that the Nokia 5 misses out.

In­side is a Qual­comm Snap­dragon 430 pro­ces­sor, which is the same pro­ces­sor you’ll find in­side the Nokia 6 and the Moto G5. That’s paired with Adreno 505 graph­ics and 2GB RAM. It man­aged to achieve a sig­nif­i­cantly bet­ter score than the Moto G5 in our

Geekbench 4 pro­ces­sor tests, although it couldn’t quite live up to the Wi­ley­fox Swift 2 Plus in ev­ery test.

In prac­tice, we found the Nokia 5 plenty fast enough for day-to-day tasks such as send­ing mes­sages, check­ing emails and brows­ing the web. Apps open with­out much lag, in­clud­ing the cam­era app, and the only time we found it a lit­tle too slow is when we needed to use the flash.

It also achieved much higher scores than the Moto G5 in all of our GFXBench tests, which are de­signed to test the graph­ics ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

There’s 16GB of in­ter­nal mem­ory with sup­port for up to 128GB of ad­di­tional stor­age via mi­croSD.

There’s a non-re­mov­able 3,000mAh bat­tery that charges via Mi­cro-USB, which we found could last for a full day on one charge with rea­son­ably heavy

use, and two days or more with light use, which we were suit­ably sat­is­fied by. Again, this beats the Moto G5’s 2,800mAh bat­tery, although the Nokia 5 misses out on the rapid charg­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties which typ­i­cally gives a few hours of bat­tery life af­ter just 15 min­utes of charg­ing.

Con­nec­tiv­ity in­cludes Blue­tooth 4.1, NFC and LTE 4G, and there’s a 3.5mm head­phone jack on the top for your wired head­phones.

A fin­ger­print sen­sor is built into the home but­ton, and we found it to be easy to setup and al­most al­ways quick and re­spon­sive.

Cam­eras

When it comes to cam­eras, the Nokia 5 has a 13Mp cam­era on the rear with a dual tone flash. Pho­tos are cap­tured in 4:3 as­pect ra­tio, and if you want to cap­ture 16:9 you’ll re­duce the qual­ity to 8Mp.

This is in line with ri­vals like the Moto G5, and we found that it could cap­ture sat­is­fac­tory pho­tos in most light­ing, per­fect for on-the-go shots to look back on or to share on so­cial me­dia.

The front-fac­ing cam­era of­fers 8Mp for self­ies, which is bet­ter than the Moto G5’s 5Mp of­fer­ing.

Low light pho­tos aren’t great, but the flash makes up for this as you’ll see from the photo of St. Pan­cras Re­nais­sance Ho­tel over­leaf.

Soft­ware

The Nokia 5 is among the first Nokia phones to run the An­droid op­er­at­ing sys­tem. It comes with An­droid 7.1.1, and fans of stock An­droid will be pleased to hear that

Nokia has left it well alone. This is one of the cheap­est ways to get stock An­droid out­side of the Pixel se­ries made by Google it­self so a big thumbs up from us. That means an in­tu­itive in­ter­face and no ad­di­tional bloat­ware. The Nokia 5 also of­fers Google As­sis­tant, which is the An­droid AI as­sis­tant in the same way that Siri is Ap­ple’s iOS voice as­sis­tant.

Ver­dict

We’ve long been lovers of the Moto G se­ries for the top pick in the bud­get An­droid cat­e­gory, but the Nokia 5 knocks it off the top spot. With a bet­ter cam­era,

bet­ter per­for­mance and a stun­ning de­sign, we are blown away by the low price tag of­fered here.

A down­side is the screen res­o­lu­tion, but if you can look past this and you’re look­ing for an An­droid smart­phone that costs less than £200, you can’t get much bet­ter than this. Ash­leigh Macro

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

• 5.2in (1280x720, 282ppi) IPS dis­play • An­droid 7.1.1 Nougat • Qual­comm MSM8937 Snap­dragon 430 pro­ces­sor • Octa-core 1.4GHz Cor­tex-A53 CPU • Adreno 505 GPU • 2GB RAM • 16GB stor­age (mi­croSD up to 256GB) • 13Mp, f/2.0, phase de­tec­tion aut­o­fo­cus, dual-LED

(dual tone) flash • 8Mp, f/2.0, 1.12μm pixel size • A-GPS/GLONASS • Blue­tooth 4.1 • NFC • Mi­cro-USB 2.0 • 3,000mAh non-re­mov­able lithium-ion bat­tery • 3.5mm head­phone socket • 149.7x72.5x8mm • 160g

5. EE Hawk £149 from fave.co/2xH3SQK

Mo­bile op­er­a­tor branded phones are a cu­ri­ous thing. They of­ten come and go ev­ery year, par­tic­u­larly from

Voda­fone, with­out much fan­fare. Of­ten too th­ese hand­sets are unattrac­tive to con­sumers as they are filled with branded bloat­ware. Luck­ily, the EE Hawk is a re­fresh­ingly dif­fer­ent take.

It’s a bud­get choice that is more ca­pa­ble than it first ap­pears, and is a sen­si­ble choice if you don’t mind be­ing on EE. Its sim­ple de­sign and clean ver­sion of An­droid are re­fresh­ing on a phone that you might as­sume is too cheap to be any good.

De­sign

For a £150 smart­phone, the Hawk is well built. But its smooth uni­body de­sign is though one of the big­gest smeary fin­ger­print mag­nets we have ever seen on a phone, but if you can get around that then the sub­tly deep blue and black of the rear is at­trac­tive.

Also on the back is a cam­era and flash, fin­ger­print sen­sor and EE logo.

It is smart­phone de­sign 101 from hereon in, with a com­pact de­sign not dis­sim­i­lar to a black iPhone from the front. Aside from the usual but­tons and a head­phone jack, this is a pleas­ingly plain phone, which is what you’d ex­pect for the price.

It’s also great to see a USB-C port rather than the nearly-dead Mi­cro-USB, and the free JBL in-ear head­phones in the box sweeten the deal. They are quite pla­s­ticky, but have a flat and there­fore sup­pos­edly tan­gle-free cord. For in-box head­phones, they have de­cent re­sponse even if they are a tad too tre­bly.

For the same money as the Hawk, you can get a Moto G5 that we think looks and feels bet­ter built than the Hawk, but at this price we’re nit­pick­ing.

It’s what the Hawk can do, rather than what it looks like, which is more im­pres­sive.

Pro­ces­sor, stor­age and RAM

When the Hawk landed on our desk with a weak 1.5GHz Me­di­aTek MT6750 pro­ces­sor and 2GB RAM, we didn’t think its per­for­mance would overly im­press. But with ex­ten­sive use, EE has def­i­nitely got the bal­ance right. The Hawk is a rel­a­tively light phone at 134g with 16GB stor­age. This isn’t a lot, but if you want to go me­dia heavy, there’s a mi­croSD slot up to 128GB. It copes well with all the sim­ple smart­phone tasks we put it through. All so­cial me­dia, mes­sag­ing and video apps worked with ad­mit­tedly an oc­ca­sional stut­ter, but per­fectly ser­vice­able given the price.

Dis­play

BBC iPlayer, Net­flix and YouTube work well and look good on the 5in dis­play. Bear in mind the low res­o­lu­tion of 1,280x720 with 294ppi. Colours across the whole phone are also quite washed out, with not much vi­brancy. But if you’re con­sid­er­ing the Hawk, chances are you won’t be in­dulging in mega stream­ing binges and want a 4G ca­pa­ble smart­phone for sim­pler tasks – ones that you won’t need to stare at the screen for hours for. For com­par­i­son, the Moto G5 has a 1920 x 1080p dis­play that han­dles most con­tent vis­ually bet­ter.

Per­for­mance

Com­par­ing the Hawk to the Moto G5 and sim­i­larly spec­i­fied Nokia 5 in th­ese bench­marks shows that the

Hawk edges the G5 and is a tad be­hind the Nokia 5, but the dif­fer­ences are neg­li­gi­ble, and you won’t see any real world dif­fer­ence. And there’s also an FM Ra­dio built in – a use­ful fea­ture that is quite hard to find on a smart­phone th­ese days.

Cam­eras

The 13Mp rear cam­era on the Hawk is fine, but you will have to ac­cept it isn’t up to much. For quick snaps of land­scapes, fam­ily and friends then it’s fine, but it only barely ac­cept­able for so­cial me­dia post­ing and you will cer­tainly not want to use it as your main cam­era on a hol­i­day, for ex­am­ple.

Let’s just say you shouldn’t buy the Hawk for its cam­era – though we know that isn’t what EE was fo­cussing on with it.

Soft­ware

The EE Hawk runs An­droid 7.0 Nougat. There’s no prom­ise from EE of 8.0 Oreo, but yet again for the price, this is an ex­cel­lently un­touched ver­sion of An­droid. It is very close to Google’s stock ver­sion, and means that the Hawk runs as smoothly as its limited hard­ware al­lows.

There is very lit­tle bloat­ware pre-in­stalled; only My EE (an app to view your price plan that you’ll use any­way) and Look­out, an EE branded se­cu­rity app that scans all apps you down­load to en­sure they’re safe to use.

Other than that, you get a clean An­droid ex­pe­ri­ence, with Google As­sis­tant and OK Google sup­port and ev­ery­thing else you’d get on a phone

that costs over five times the price. There aren’t many cus­tomiza­tion op­tions, such as be­ing able to change theme, but it’s an ac­cept­able omis­sion for the price.

There’s an built-in Gallery app, but oth­er­wise the Hawk prompts you to use Google’s apps for contacts, cal­en­dar and more – great, as you don’t get du­pli­cate apps built in if you are us­ing Google ser­vices (and we rec­om­mend that you do).

Ver­dict

The EE Hawk is a lit­tle gem at the start of 2018. The build is above av­er­age for the ask­ing price, and it is a solid hand­set to go for if you sim­ply need to use 4G data on a smart­phone but don’t want to spend half your pay­check to do it. It is not a phone to game on due to the low pow­ered in­ter­nals, though it copes with video fine. The dis­play is quite washed out, but

the clean An­droid soft­ware makes up for this. You won’t want to post many pic­tures from the not­great cam­era on In­sta­gram, but if you want a de­cent snap­per, you’ll look at phones that cost more. The EE Hawk is up there with the Moto G5 as one of the best bud­get smart­phones in the UK. Henry Burrell

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

• 5in (1,280x720, 294ppi) IPS LCD ca­pac­i­tive dis­play • An­droid 7.1 Nougat • Me­di­aTek MT6750 pro­ces­sor • Octa-core (4x 1.5GHz Cor­tex-A53, 4x 1GHz

Cor­tex-A53) CPU • Mali-T860MP2 GPU • 2GB RAM • 16GB stor­age (mi­croSD up to 128GB) • 13Mp front-fac­ing cam­era: aut­o­fo­cus, dual-LED

dual-tone flash • 8Mp rear-fac­ing cam­era • A-GPS • Blue­tooth 4.0 • Mi­cro-USB 2.0 • 2,500mAh non-re­mov­able lithium-ion bat­tery • 144x72x7.9mm • 134g

The Honor 9 Lite has a glass front and rear

HDR mode

The G6 Play is one of the cheap­est 18:9 hand­sets we’ve seen

The G6 Play’s cam­era is de­cent for a bud­get cam­era

The fin­ger­print scan­ner is on the rear and has a Mo­torola logo on it

The G5’s alu­minium case gives it a pre­mium feel

Geekbench 4

A se­lec­tion of im­ages taken with the rear 13Mp cam­era

The fin­ger­print scan­ner is lo­cated on the rear

The Nokia 5’s case is made from a sin­gle block of 6000 se­ries alu­minium

Geekbench 4

Im­age taken with the phone’s 13Mp cam­era

The Hawk has a sim­ple and clean de­sign

Geekbench 4

The Hawk runs An­droid 7.0 Nougat

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